67. Depart from Evil
We must take caution with “depart from evil,” to keep the four covenants.
The covenant of the eyes, which is to caution from looking at women. And the prohibition is not necessarily because it might lead to a thought. The evidence of that is that the prohibition applies also to an old man of one hundred years. Rather, the real reason is that it extends from a very high root: the caution is because if one is not cautious, one might come to look upon the Holy Shechina (Divinity).
The covenant of the tongue, to be watchful with truth and falsehood. The scrutinies that exist now, after the sin of Adam ha Rishon, are scrutinies of true and false. However, prior to the sin of the tree of knowledge the scrutinies concerned bitter and sweet.
Yet, when the scrutiny is in truth and falsehood, it is entirely different. At times it begins sweet and ends bitter. Hence, it follows that there is a reality of bitter which is nonetheless true.
For this reason we must be careful with changing our words. Although one thinks that one is only lying to one’s friend, we should know that the body is like a machine: as it is accustomed to walk, so it continues to walk. Therefore, when it is accustomed to falsehood and deceit, it is then impossible to walk by another way, and this forces man to proceed with falsehood and deceit when one is alone, too.
It turns out that one must deceive oneself and cannot tell oneself the truth at all, because he does not find any special preference to the truth.
We might say that he who thinks that he is deceiving his friend, is really deceiving the Creator, since besides man’s body there is only the Creator. This is because it is the essence of creation that man is called “creature” only with respect to himself. The Creator wants man to feel that he is a separated reality from Him; but except for that, it is all “the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Hence, when lying to one’s friend, one is lying to the Creator; and when saddening one’s friend, one is saddening the Creator. For this reason, if one is accustomed to speak the truth, it will help him with respect to the Creator. That is, if one had promised something to the Creator, he will try to keep his promise, since he is not used to changing his word, and by that he will be rewarded with “the Lord is thy shade.” If one keeps and does what he says, the Creator, too, will keep “blessed is he who says and does” in return.
There is a sign in the covenant of the tongue, to not speak of everything that is possible, since by speaking one reveals what is in one’s heart, and this gives a hold to the externals. This is so because as long as one is not perfectly clean, when he reveals something of his interior, the Sitra Achra (other side) has power to complain Above, and mock one’s work. She says, “What kind of work is he giving upward, since his whole intention in this work is only downward?”
This answers a great question: it is known that “a Mitzva induces a Mitzva”; so why do we often see that one often falls from one’s work? As we have said above, the Sitra Achra defames and complains about one’s work, and then comes down and takes one’s soul. That is, since she has already defamed Above, and said that his work was not clean, but that he is working in the form of reception for oneself, she comes down and takes the spirit of one’s life by asking, “What mean you by this service?” Hence, even when one is awarded some illumination of the spirit of life, he loses it again.
The advice for it is to walk humbly, so she will not know about his work, by way of “he does not reveal from the heart to the mouth.” Then the Sitra Achra cannot know of one’s work, as she only knows what is revealed by word or action; this is what she can grip.
And we should know that pain and suffering comes primarily through those who slander. Hence, we should be as careful as we can with speaking. Moreover, we should know that even when speaking mundane words, this still reveals the secrets of one’s heart. This is the meaning of “My soul failed me when he spoke.” This is the covenant of the tongue, with which we must take caution.
And the keeping should especially be during the ascent, since during the descent it is hard to walk in great degrees and cautions.